2021-04-17 12:57:39

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ENGLISH Would it have pleased you better if I had seen her home? he asked.You and Mr Keeling are spoiling me, he declared, though it must have required a singularly vivid imagination to trace in Keelings face any symptom of that indulgent tendency.

May me come in? he said. And how are us?{200}

It was largely the remembrance of this visit, and the future accession of dignity which it had foreshadowed that inspired Mrs Keeling, as she drove home in her victoria after morning-service at St Thomass, a few Sundays later, with so comfortable a sense of her general felicity. The thought of being addressed on her envelopes as Lady Keeling, and by Parkinson as My lady, caused her to take a livelier interest in the future than she usually did, for the comfortable present was generally enough for her. And with regard to the present her horizon was singularly unclouded, apart from the fact that Alice was suffering from influenza, an infliction which her mother bore very calmly. Her mind was not nimble, and it took her all the time that the slowly-lolloping horse occupied in traversing the road from the church to The Cedars in surveying those horizons, and running over, as she had just been bidden to do by Mr Silverdale in his sermon, her numerous{175} causes for thankfulness. She hardly knew where to begin, but the pearl-pendant, which her husband had given her on her birthday, and now oscillated with the movement of the carriage on the platinum chain round her ample neck, formed a satisfactory starting-point. It really was very handsome, and since she did not hold with the mean-spirited notion that presents were only tokens of affection, and that the kind thought that prompted a gift was of greater value than its cash-equivalent, she found great pleasure in the size and lustre of the pearl. Indeed she rather considered the value of the gift to be the criterion of the kindness of thought that had prompted it, and by that standard her husbands thought had been very kind indeed. She had never known a kinder since, now many years ago, he had given her the half-hoop of diamonds that sparkled on her finger. And this gift had been all of a piece with his general conduct. She knew for a fact that he was going to behave with his usual generosity at Christmas to her mother, and he had promised herself and Alice a fortnights holiday at Brighton in February. Perhaps he would come with them, but it was more likely that business would detain him. She found she did not care whether he came or not. It was her duty to be contented, whatever happened, when everything was so pleasant.Dear lady, he said. Go on with your Protestant exhortations. I have been exhorting all afternoon, and I am so tired of my own exhortations. We will listen, and try to agree with you, wont we, Miss Alice?

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No, I am not the least tired, he said. As soon as I have changed my clothes, I shall go down to my office.Mrs Goodford began to grow slightly more bellicose.

There was a moon somewhere above the snow-clouds that already were beginning to grow thin from the burden they had discharged, and the smug villas on each side of the road were clearly visible. She had to go up the length of Alfred Road, then turn down the street that led by St Thomass Vicarage, and emerge into West Street, where she lived with her brother. Already, a fortnight ago he had ascertained the number of their house, not asking for it directly, but causing her to volunteer the information, and since then he had half a dozen times gone through the street, on his way to and from the Stores in order to take a glance at it as he passed. He had wanted to know what the house looked like; he had wanted to construct the circumstances of her life, to know the aspect of her environment, to see the front-door out of which she came to her duties as his secretary. That all concerned her, and for that reason it concerned him. He knew the house well by now: he knew from chance remarks that he had angled for that her bedroom looked into the street, that Charless looked on to an old{154} disused graveyard behind. There was the dining-room and the sitting-room in front, and a paling behind which Michaelmas daisies flourished in a thin row. She cared for flowers, but not for flowers in a six-inch bed. They rather provoked her: they were playing at being flowers. She liked them when they grew in wild woodland spaces, and were not confined between a house-wall and a row of tiled path.

Indeed you shall do nothing of the sort, said she. It is quite unnecessary. I absolutely forbid it.Perhaps they are entailed, said Alice, thinking that by now her note would have arrived at the Vicarage.Keeling pushed back his chair as he often did when he was disposed for a few minutes talk, putting a gap between himself and his business table. He gave her a smile and a long look.

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I shall not have the catalogue completed. And I shall insist on paying for what you have done. I shall get an estimate of your work made and a price fixed.{190}{219}

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Apr-17 12:57:39